Most of us have them. If we could explain them or even get rid of them, we would have greater success in our family tree research.
Unexplained gaps can be the reason for your family tree's brick wall. There are many kinds of gaps to look for. Some gaps can be explained, others cannot. If left unpursued, we may never uncover the "full truth" about the family. Below are some examples.
Gap #1 - too many years between births of children
- Joshua (1833)
- Samuel (1835)
- William (1841)
- John (1843)
- David (1846)
All seems normal except for the 6-year-gap between the births of Samuel and William. As a rule of thumb, look for children to be born between 2-3 years apart.
These "gaps of unusual size" deserve your attention and explanation. What accounts for this gap?
- Maybe there's a child (or two) that died young. There could certainly be two more children in this family born in 1837 and 1839. Since the 1840 census did not account for them, look in cemetery and other records for these potentially missing children. Who knows, these records may even provide additional clues to the family's ancestry.
- Maybe the family moved away between 1835 and 1841. Could they have had children in another town, and later returned?
- It is also possible that the father was gone for a time (military, a preaching circuit, etc.). If this is the case, then the gap between children is explained.
- What else?
What about the McCall family here? All looks pretty good until you notice the 8-year-gap between the 6th and 7th child. This actually is more common to have a gap between the second-to-last and last child. Here, David may have been a "surprise" to the parents, or, maybe we're missing children born in 1850, 1852, and 1854. Could these potentially missing children have clues to the family's puzzle?
Gap #2 - too many years between the marriage and the first child
After a couple married, children usually came within the first year or two. In this example, David and Clara's first child came more than four years (1872) after their marriage (1868). Why? I don't know. Trouble getting pregnant? Before-their-time birth control? Maybe there's a missing child born in 1869 or 1870. Left unexplained, there's a chance that the family is not complete.
Gap #3 - not enough time between children
In the Clark family below, the births of the first two children are suspicious.
- Asa (child #1) was born 12 Feb 1742
- Abel (child #2) was born 24 Jan 1742
- Maybe check the documentation for the births of these children?
- Investigate the calendaring system (Julian vs. Gregorian)
- Were there other Nathaniel Clark families in the same region at the same time having children?
- Anything else?
Each of these suggestions deserve further investigation.
Legacy Family Tree's Potential Problems report (Tools > Potential Problems) can expose many other gaps (see below).
Browsing my family tree for gaps of unusual size was surprising. After years of being stumped on some families, identifying these gaps has given me renewed hope. Good luck to all in filling in your gaps!